What Is an MVP? Why Do You Need One?

February 20, 2019

An MVP can cut costs, build customer relationships, test critical business functions, reduce time, and strengthen your business’s case to investors.

Minimum viable products (MVPs) are a cost-effective, pragmatic approach to mobile app development.

Whether you’re an appreneur or work for a large corporation, MVPs can be the difference between getting there first with a sleek product or vying for market shares with an unoptimized app.

Learn how an MVP helps businesses of all sizes save money and time while also building relationships with customers.

What Is an MVP?

First, let’s go over what an MVP actually is.

An MVP, sometimes referred to as a minimum feature set, is an app with the minimum number of features needed to both function and simultaneously satisfy your intended user base.

Unlike a product demo, an MVP is sale-able, akin to a beta test for a program or video game. Your MVP must include the necessary functionality to fix the pain point your app will attempt to solve and, optimally, not much else.

An MVP is intended to build upon itself through an iterative process with early adopters, rather than re-working existing features to fix coding, marketing, or user experience issues.

Why Do I Need an MVP?

There are many reasons to go to market with an MVP. The main points we’ll cover are how MVPs can:

  • Cut costs
  • Build customer relationships earlier in development
  • Test critical business functions without significant investment
  • Reduce time spent re-working
  • Strengthen your business’s case

MVPs Help Cut Costs

As stated in our "How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?" blog post, an app’s features are the largest factors in determining final cost; the more features you include, the more hours you must put into development and testing. An MVP reduces costs by giving you the ability to test your product in the real world, while only requiring minimal development time on your part.

When developing an MVP, your goal is to identify the pain point you want to solve, and then address it by producing only the necessary features to make your app work.

For example, if you’re developing an app meant to connect craft beer enthusiasts, such as Brew Trader, you would only include the necessary features to make sure your app functions:

  • A map that updates to show new users as they join
  • A messaging system to allow users to contact each other through the app
  • Simple back-end infrastructure to give users the ability to update their profile with their current offering of craft beers for trade

The only graphics your app would need at this point are a logo and simple fields to select options.

As you receive feedback from users, features such as giving recommendations based on beer preference, user rating systems, or real-time GPS and map updating can be included to improve upon your user’s experience.

Below, you can see a working MVP version of the Brew Trader app.

Brew Trader app MVP

Notice the only graphic element that is heavily designed is the logo. All other fields use simple graphics with just enough detail to provide the necessary information. As development continues, these graphics can be updated with more a robust design or even photos of the craft brews themselves.

An important feature of MVPs to note is that while you’re in development, your app is creating revenue. You can then direct this revenue toward more development, giving you the option to start with limited funding and still eventually produce a professional, robust, and well-designed app.

By releasing your app with only the minimum required features, you can assure that every hour put into development is necessary to the functionality of your app, and therefore, reduces your costs by forgoing the development of features your user base may not require or even want.

MVPs Build Customer Relationships Earlier in Development

When building an MVP, early adopters should make up your target audience. Early adopters are a great way to build a foundation for your customer base, as they readily provide feedback, are accustomed to industry standards, and are usually technologically proficient, so you can trust their opinions and criticism.

When you release your app as an MVP, you’re most likely capturing an untapped market of users looking for the answer to the same pain point you’re attempting to solve, giving you a head-start on the competition. An MVP not only gets you there first but ensures your app is optimized for user experience and retention.

After your app’s initial release, every feature you add is not only backed by direct-from-consumer market research, it also strengthens your relationship with your user base as your app’s utility grows.

Features that may have been taken for granted are now seen as additional solutions to your users’ pain point and create an emotional bond of gratitude as they continually see improvements in their experience, thus building brand loyalty.

MVPs Test Critical Business Functions Without Significant Investment

Sales numbers decide a product’s success, no matter its quality. When you go to market with an MVP, your sales and marketing strategy are tested sooner, giving you a leg up when scaling these marketing and sales efforts.

With your MVP, you can test your assumptions, determine weak points in your app that reduce sales, and even analyze how individual features impact sales numbers as they are added to your app. This allows you to focus on developing upon the most profitable features of your app.

MVPs Reduce Time Spent Re-Working

A significant portion of development is spent re-working features based on user feedback, internal testing, and user behavior analysis.

There are important factors that can reduce time spent revising your app, such as market research and impeccable UI, but an MVP allows you to forgo heavy pre-development market research and design because an MVP is expected to be enhanced upon, rather than adjusting existing features according to feedback.

Below, you can see how user reviews can give insight into how your app’s individual features influence user behavior and if they attract or detract users from purchasing your app.

App ratings & reviews

For example, Sportly is an app that connects people looking for pick-up games and allows users to match with players at their skill level. Though this feature adds value to the user, it isn't critical for the app to function and was likely built later in the MVP process.

You should clearly set user expectations and maintain clear communication channels with customers. This helps ensure every step in your development process is necessary to the functionality of your finalized product because you’ll only include features requested or needed by users.

While your app is on the market generating revenue, you can enhance design elements, build upon functionality, and increase scope – rather than research, design, code, test, and then finally re-work – all before making any profit.

With an MVP, you not only reduce the time spent in development, and therefore cost, you also open your revenue stream much earlier than a conventional build cycle.

MVPs Strengthen Your Business’s Case to Investors

While your MVP creates its own revenue stream during development, you strengthen your proposal to receive funding from investors, if needed.

You’re much more likely to attract investors if you can prove that not only are you able to produce, but your app is needed, wanted, and already adopted by users as the solution to a particular pain point.

Use your user data to attract investors to your product. An app tester’s opinion can hold some sway over an investor, but hard sales numbers that prove your app’s value and hold on the marketplace are much more enticing. 

MVPs Increase Efficiency, Reduce Costs, and Generate Revenue During Development

Creating an MVP is a fast and efficient way to market but also ensures you don’t over-stretch your focus – all while providing you with relevant user feedback and data and simultaneously developing revenue streams and brand reputation.

If you’re an entrepreneur with a limited budget or a corporation worried about someone else beating you to the punch, an MVP is one of the most cost-effective and time-efficient methods to get your app into users’ hands.

About the Author

Headshot of Kate VinnedgeKate Vinnedge is a content writer for NS804. Beginning her writing career at the Free Lance-Star as a lifestyle journalist covering the music scene in Fredericksburg, Virginia, she studied creative advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she wrote for a local chapter of the Richmond Boys and Girls Club and worked at VCU School of Engineering as a public relations specialist before and after receiving her bachelor’s degree. Her hobbies include LEGO, poetry, drawing, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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